Certain Hindu festivals are associated with the annual cycle of seasons. Sankranthi, the biggest harvest festival in Andhra Pradesh, is one of such festivals. The festival is also celebrated with the name'Pongal' in other parts of South India. It is celebrated to mark the reaping of the harvest. At least a month prior to this festival, (called the beginning of "Dhanurmaasam") women start decorating their neatly swept front porches, which are sprinkled with water mixed in cow dung (considered to be a disinfectant), with beautiful floral designs called 'Muggulu'(rangoli or kolam).
Sankranthi, the biggest harvest festival, is celebrated over three days. Each day is marked by different festivities. In Andhra Pradesh the first day of the festival is called Bhogi, the second day Sankranthi and the third day as Kanuma.
The first day, Bhogi, is a day for the family. On this day the entire family wakes early in the morning, lights up a a big Bonfire called "Bhogi Manta" and burns waste wooden rubbish accumulated through the year. In this fire, wood logs or useless wood, old broomsticks, etc., lying in the house and the dried cowdung balls made for the event, are burnt. Cleaning and burning of rubbish symbolizes the destruction of evil. This fire also symbolises the departure of poverty and the welcoming of Goddess Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth, because, during this time the farmers sell their produce and get money. Also on this day, the elders in the family pour different varieties of small fruit known as 'Bhogi Pallu' on the heads of their children. This is performed to bless the children with prosperity and good health.
The second day, Sankranthi or Makara Sankranthi, marks the Sun's journey to the Capricorn ('Makara' raasi) of Northern Hemisphere, signifying the onset of 'Uttarayana Punyakalam', and is a day of celebration all over the country. On this occasion relatives and friends meet and greet one another along with having delicious dishes. The festive specials include 'sakinaalu', 'ariselu', 'jantikalu', 'chakralu' and 'kajjikayalu'.
The most important and entertaining sights during Sankranthi are Gangireddulu, beautifully decorated oxen that are taken from house to house and are made to nod their heads byHaridaasu, a traditional singer who sings bhajans on God, praying for the welfare of the people.
One more important aspect of Sankranti is 'Bommala koluvu' (or Golu), which is the display of various dolls and toys. Koluvu means Display. A variety of dolls are arranged beautifully in a selected place of the house and displayed to all the guests who come to see it. This is a ladies function. In the evening all the neighborhood ladies are invited to the koluvu to spend time together. This is called 'Perantam'. Young girls apply turmeric paste to the feet of women and offer them 'vayanam', which consists of beetle leaves, nut-powder and soaked chana (sanagalu).While girls are busy with Gobbillu, Rangoli, and Bommala Koluvu, Boys get busy with kites. With the onset of Sankranthi, the festival of kites, many places are brimming with kite-flyers . Kanuma is primarily a festival for farmers. On this day, the farmers decorate their cattle and treat them with deep respect as a show of their appreciation in helping them harvest the crop. Alms are given to poor people. Women draw the most beautiful and biggest Ratham Muggu (Rangoli in the form of a big Chariot) on this day in front of their houses. In Kerala, on this auspicious day, millions of pilgrims (Ayyappa devotees) throng the Sabarimala Temple to witness the Makara Jyothi on the hills.
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